Is the Transportation Corridor Agency–aka. the TCA/Toll Roads–maneuvering to become a permanent transportation authority similar to the Orange County Transportation Authority (OCTA)?
Some prominent lawyers and South Countians feel it is.
Dan Bane, an attorney representing San Clemente residents who oppose the TCA and SR-241 extension, certainly believes this is so. According to Bane, and TCA documents, some plans to expand the SR-241 would overstep the TCA’s jurisdiction by adding toll lanes to the I-5 in South County.
“The TCA appears to now be retooling itself to become a managed toll lane agency, which is far afield from its original mission of simply building out San Joaquin Hills and Foothill/Eastern Transportation Corridors, paying down the bonds and then going out of business as promised.”
Proposed extension 14, for instance, would merge onto the I-5 at Pico, with large entrance and exit ramps flying over the athletic stadiums of San Clemente High School. After merging with the I-5, the plan appears to continue by adding toll lanes to the middle of the I-5 from Pico, all the way down to the Orange/San Diego County border at Bassilone Road.
It’s important to note that Idea 10 and Idea 12 would also include expanding the I-5 by adding toll lanes. Idea 12 proposes adding a toll lane from the I-405, through the El Toro Y and all the way to the San Diego/Orange County border.
Not only would this be overstepping the TCA’s jurisdiction and opposing the opinion of O.C. citizens, adding high-occupancy toll lanes (HOT lanes) to the I-5 would mean that the toll roads would likely continue on in perpetuity.
Or, as Bane said, “All of the TCA’s current proposals concerning South Orange County Mobility Solutions include managed toll lanes in the middle of Interstate 5. However, the TCA does not have the power, and has never had the power, to construct managed toll lanes on Interstate 5, or anywhere else for that matter.”
For those who didn’t know that the TCA’s proposed plans will not reduce traffic in O.C., or who didn’t know that lobbyists and local politicians have been working to complete the toll road extension against the citizens’ will for their own benefit, please follow up on the links provided.
For everyone else, here’s a copy of the original bill that allowed for the creation of the TCA by a joint powers agreement courtesy of the state legislature back in 1987, proposed as SB 1413 (Seymour). This bill authorized the creation of a toll road that runs parallel to existing freeways to help reduce congestion. After constructing the SR-241 and SR-73, and repaying the cost of construction through the sale of bonds, the TCA was supposed to dissolve.
Imposing HOT lanes in the middle of the I-5 is not building parallel to the freeway, as the original law required. As of now, only the OCTA and Caltrans have the legal authority to do so.
Additionally, by expanding the I-5 and adding new HOT lanes, the TCA is proposing the completion of Orange County’s original arterial highway plan that it once deemed as too expensive.
Back in 2009, the San Diego Union-Tribune spoke to TCA members, and reported:
“The transportation agency said expanding I-5 is too costly – at least $3.7 billion, by its estimate – and too disruptive to nearby residents. Making room for a wider freeway would require condemning 1,200 homes and businesses, tollway officials said. They also hammer the point that there’s no foreseeable state funding for major I-5 upgrades.”
It is important to note that all the TCA’s proposed plans to extend the SR-241 would either threaten homes by widening the I-5, or would threaten homes by building a toll road extension directly through existing communities.
“I’m sure the TCA could find a way to build without condemning homes,” Bane said, “but if you build a toll road with in 10 or 50 feet of someone’s backyard, you’re essentially doing the same thing.”
If the TCA were really concerned with reducing traffic, then the best option would be to eliminate the tolls on the SR-241 and SR 73. But, because the TCA seems more concerned with continuing to increase its revenue through collecting tolls (*note the TCA reported record high profits, and CEO salaries of over $400k in 2017), while simultaneously increasing its debt by refinancing bonds (*note the $11 billion in debt is never expected to be paid off), the expansion of the I-5 would be the best option to benefit the TCA and their shareholders.
Why would the TCA risk serious backlash for building a costly extension which is out of their jurisdiction? As Bane said, “People don’t want to lose their golden goose.”